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The Mind Muscle Connection

Have you ever walked into a gym and seen the big guy lifting weights that you could lift easily? He is moving really slowly, grunting and sweating, and you think to yourself, “I could do that no problem, what is he huffing and puffing about?” Well, he has mastered what people have come to know as the Mind Muscle Connection. This is a common practice with some of the world’s top bodybuilders, and it can be utilized by everyone to get the physique they’ve always wanted. The Mind Muscle Connection works by creating very specific neurological pathways that allow you to pour all of your efforts into the right place. So many people go to the gym and work their butts off, but never get near the results they want. By harnessing the power of your mind you can get even more gains than before. It sounds difficult, but with enough practice anyone can use this technique to get the results they desire.

One study declared “We conclude that the mental training employed by this study enhances the cortical output signal, which drives the muscles to a higher activation level and increases strength.” [1] First we need to define two terms: prime movers and secondary movers. Prime movers are the target muscles, secondary movers are the surrounding or supporting muscles that can take over and help lift the weight. These 5 tips will help you get their even faster.

Tip 1 - Leave your ego at home. A lot of people go to the gym and try to lift their maximum every time. We sometimes forget that the purpose of lifting is not to show off, but to build a fully functional, good- looking body. By performing exercises with the proper weight, it cuts down on the excess engagement of secondary movers, and places more loads and stresses on the muscles you want to target to get a fully developed muscle. Take the bench press for instance, using proper weight can take some of the load of your front delt and place more stress on the pec major for better pec development.

Tip 2 – Form comes first. Form is very important, if you do not use proper form you could engage the wrong muscles or possibly sustain an injury. Improper form can result in the recruitment of secondary movers and prevent working out the muscle that you actually want to strengthen. This works in conjunction with the first tip. Using proper form coupled with the right weight will ensure you get the muscle engagement you intended.

Tip 3 – Fully utilize your warm-up sets. Warm-up sets are vastly under-utilized, most people either do not do them or do not use them correctly. During your warm-up sets, try going slower and focusing on the muscle you are using; this will force more blood into the muscle, allowing for a better pump and engagement of a greater number of muscle fibers. This will make your working sets more effective and allow for more muscle development.

Tip 4 – Flex your muscles between sets. This is a great trick and does so many things for your training. Flexing your target muscles in between sets will force more blood into your muscles that will increase the pump so you can feel the muscle better. It will also increase the stress on the muscle so you can grow more. By increasing the stress and pump your mind will in turn create a pathway in your brain that makes the engagement of that muscle easier.

Tip 5 – Look at the muscle. Mirrors are not there for you to take pictures so you can show everyone you workout on Facebook and Twitter or to practice your posing routine. They are there so you can check your form, but now you can use them for a new purpose. You can use them to help you control the amount of engagement for a particular muscle group. A study at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, UK stated, “Attentional focusing strategies and instructions influence the observed muscular activity, which has direct implications for both skill execution and physical training…” [2] By looking at your muscles and feeling them pumped up you can create the connection that will help you get bigger, stronger and more ripped than ever.

Applying these tips to improve your Mind Muscle Connection can greatly increase your muscle size and definition. If you choose not use this technique, you could miss out on getting the body you always dreamed of and wasting countless hours in the gym. Take these tips to the gym and use them every time you workout to get the greatest results in the minimal amount of time.


[1] Ranganathan VK, Siemionow V, Liu JZ, Sahgal V, Yue GH. Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(7):944-56.

[2] Marchant, D., Greig, M. and Scott, C. (2008) Attentional Focusing Strategies Influence Muscle Activity During Isokinetic Biceps Curls. Athletic Insight, 10 (2).

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